Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A CHERISED ISLAND MEMORY RETOLD MANY TIMES...BOTHVERBALLY AND BY THE WRITTEN WORD.....



 
Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island...the resort's restaurant/bar/pool area was up behind the trees fringing the beach; and my little house was atop the cape, beyond those rocks,  The guest cabins were further along to the left of the pic above.
Two views of the Cardwell jetty
Macushla...on Hinchinbrook Island
Two views of Mount Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island.  Mount Bowen is Queensland's third highest mountain


To my mind, the months of April, May and June are among the best times to be in the tropical areas of North Queensland.  

Skies of azure abound, unblemished by clouds other than perhaps flimsy wisps of almost transparent gossamer. An ocean so calm it looks like a floor constructed of glass gently laps the shore.

On one glorious day as described I flew by light aircraft, a four-seater Beaver, to the mouth of the Hull River, north of Tully. We flew low over the Family Group of Islands, which includes Bedarra and Dunk Islands. The pristine sandy ocean bed, clearly visible below appeared to have about six inches of water covering it, so crystal-clear was the sea.  The depth was an illusion, but because of the clarity of the vision one could be easily fooled into believing.

It was in April, whether by coincidence, luck, fate or a bit of each, a group of guests arrived to the island by the Grumman Mallard seaplane.  

Before they’d embarked on their individual adventure, they were strangers to each other, except for one couple Tim and Suzy - who weren't really a 'couple'. They were good friends; perhaps friends with benefits.  I knew not and cared not.  Like with the others, they were, of course, strangers to me when they first set foot on the punt transporting them from the seaplane to the island; a situation soon to be rectified.

Gaby, a thirty-something, career-driven lass from Sydney alighted first, looking a little stressed from being out of her normal comfort zone.

Tim and Suzy themselves eagerly stepped into the punt with no outward signs of trepidation.  

Gingerly, a tall, timid-looking fellow named Dennis was the last to exit the seaplane.

Nervously, he stepped into the punt, with the help my guiding arm.  He set himself apart from the rest of us, not joining in the light chit-chat.

His initial behaviour was to be his wont for the next couple days and nights we discovered...until, that is, combined, we broke his resolve!

Gaby, Tim, Suzy and I hit it off immediately.  Together we were a force to be reckoned with....it was better, Dennis learned, to have the force with you!

After the 'greet-and-meet' out on the deck surrounding the pool - something I did with all guests upon their arrival, whether by boat or seaplane - the new guests were escorted to their respective cabins.

After the arrival of this interesting-looking and sounding group, every cabin was occupied, making a total of about 32 guests from memory.

At that time, when I managed the resort, we advertised “maximum population – 30”. 

There were only 15 cabins, each privately hidden among the lush foliage along the beachfront.  The cabins could hold four persons, but in the majority of instances, the resort was the choice of couples.

Later, after my time on the island the accommodation facilities increased, doubling in number.   

Nowadays, after cyclone devastation and other sad factors, the resort no longer exists; but my memories do.

To recap, the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island covered only 22 acres of the total 245 square miles of the island. The rest of the island was a national park in care of the National Parks and Wildlife Department.  It is now all national park.

After the “greet and meet” ended, I didn't set eyes upon the new group of 'islanders' until pre-dinner drinks around the bar on the evening of their arrival.

After mingling with the guests at the bar as I did every evening, I joined my new guests at their table for dinner, at their bidding.

Dennis, dressed in a vibrant lime-green shirt, however, set himself apart from everyone else, choosing to sit alone at a table in a corner.

This was not to be, in my opinion.  I treated all my resort guests as if they were guests in my own home...the restaurant was my dining room.   My staff acted accordingly.

Having approached Dennis at his table, I coerced and cajoled at length, finally breaking down his reserve.  Somewhat reluctantly, but knowing he was beaten, and there was no escape hatch, Dennis joined the rest of the newcomers – and me.

Well, that was the beginning of a most wonderful, fun-filled, insane, crazy week!

Tim, a journalist with a well-respected financial magazine in this country at the time, the "The Bulletin" (the magazine closed its printing presses for the final time in January, 2008), was highly intelligent, gentle, quiet and extremely humorous.

Suzy, who worked in advertising, from memory, was as bright as the shiniest button, a little avant-garde.   Actually, a wee bit more that 'a little'. She dressed accordingly – with Bohemian flair.  Both she and Tim were from Melbourne.

Gaby, the stressed career girl soon shed her 'city' worries, and quickly settled into the island spirit.  Gaby was from Sydney.

Dennis, who had just turned 40, was also from Melbourne.  He was very shy, and, in the early stages, seemingly without humour.  Studious, silent unless urged to utter a word or two, he sat amongst our motley crew of degenerates, (which included me) feeling trapped, no doubt, not knowing which way to look.

Unsuccessfully, he tried to escape our evil clutches every day and night!

Dennis, as I learned during the course of his stay, was using his holiday on the island as a time to reflect, and to consider his future. He had been offered a post at Oxford University.

Sun-filled, warm, not hot days and balmy, playful nights followed. Dennis tried his utmost to distance himself from the 'group' but none of us would allow this to happen.    
We were going to drag him out of himself if it was the last thing we did!

After our first night of hilarity, he sat at another table with other guests, trying to remain invisible! How could he? His lime-green shirt let him down every time! He lived in that shirt!

We came to the conclusion it was the only shirt he had brought with him. Perhaps he believed in travelling light.  It was obviously his favourite shirt because wherever he went the shirt was sure to follow!

By his third night, he realised he couldn't fight us any longer.  He gave in, virtually waving a white flag (or lime green shirt), and rejoined our madcap activities.

It was the best thing that could have happened to the 40 year-old bachelor. We certainly opened up his vistas...freed his mind to a land of opportunities!

I always mingled with my guests, but never to the extent with which I did with that particular group.

We’d 'clicked' for whatever reason.  Our personalities, views on life; our senses of humour; our characters, regardless of variances, melded.

We were not dissimilar to the "Famous Five" out of Enid Blyton books, but much more wicked – and a few years older!

Once Dennis learned how to relax, he let his guard down more than he ever had done in his past.   He went with the 'flow' and discovered he enjoyed himself as he never believed he could.

The lime-green shirt went wherever he went. I'm sure he slept in it.

One day while he was out swimming in the ocean ofh Orchid Beach, the resort’s main beach, Suzy, Gaby and I grabbed the opportunity.  We stole the notorious shirt.  With it clasped in our hands, we scurried away like thieves in the night, out of sight.  We hid the damn thing, much to his despair!  I hid it among the t-shirts and sarongs on sale in the little resort shop adjoining my office.

It was Thursday afternoon around four-fifteen. I was in my office attending to some paperwork, when the lime-green shirt-clad Dennis, appeared at the door.

"Come on!" He said.

"Where?"  I replied.

"I'm taking you out in the canoe!" He spluttered excitedly.

"The canoe! I've never been in a canoe in my life! Have you?" I laughed. "I can't...I've got work to do!"

"No...I've never been in a canoe, either...but today is the day! Come on! 'No' is not an answer I will accept!"

"Oh! My God! What am I letting myself into!" I exclaimed as he dragged me bodily from my office.

Down to the little beach beside the jetty we went with much gaiety, with me, protesting, laughing all the way.

At that point in my life, I had never before rowed anything, let alone paddled a canoe!

Like Pocahontas and Hiawatha off the two of us went, unstably!

Dennis was like a person driven, driven by some inner demon of a hidden, long-forgotten sense of the ridiculous.

We talked. We laughed and we giggled like two school kids.

When he was paddling one way, I paddled the other.  We were never in synch. Somehow, even with our lack of expertise at paddling, we soon approached the bend leading towards Macushla Beach, both of us drenched from tears of laughter and from sea water!

"We have to turn around and go back, Dennis! I've got to race home to shower and change for the restaurant!" 

The sun had begun its descent in the west, beyond the mountains behind Cardwell on the mainland.

As we struggled on our return trip, Johnno, my barman was standing at the end of the jetty in the distance. He spotted us. I called out to him to come to the rescue.   Both Dennis and I could row no further.  We were weak from laughter.

Jumping into the island boat, “Lady”, the yellow Abalone, (my staff had named the boat "Lady of the Island" in my honour), Johnno came to our rescue like a knight of days of yore.

Johnno towed us back to the jetty, making our return journey much quicker than if we’d been left to our own devices...thank goodness! It was a fun finale to our equally fun, spontaneous excursion!

Our water-logged adventure was the main topic of conversation over dinner that evening.

Dennis' time on the island came to an end on a Friday. He planned leaving the island in the afternoon by the “Reef Venture”, the powered catamaran.  Once on the mainland he intended jumping aboard a Greyhound coach at Cardwell, en route further north to spend a couple of days in Cairns, before heading back home to Melbourne.

He was the focus of our attention on his final night. Gaby, Suzy, Tim and I threatened the four of us would book into an adjoining room at the hotel in which he’d be staying at Cairns.

 How dare he escape from the 'group'!  Flee the nest!  Our motto was “all for one and one for all!”   No copyright fees rendered.

One could tell by the look on his face he wasn't sure whether to believe us or not.  We weren't going to let him escape our clutches easily, or without a battle.

As planned, Dennis left the following afternoon, among much joviality, mingled with some sadness.

Dennis was a changed person to the one who had arrived a few days earlier. His decision about his future had been made during the crazy fun and games; and, also during his quiet walks, lost in his own thoughts, along the beach or through the rainforest to adjacent beaches.

He decided to accept the Oxford University posting.  

To my surprise, when I arrived back at my office after farewelling Dennis, on my desk was a parcel wrapped in paper, addressed to me. Upon opening it, I let out a loud laugh.

It was the infamous lime-green shirt! Dennis had bequeathed it to me!

When Suzy, Tim and Gaby arrived at the bar that evening for “Happy Hour” I called them into my office.  I’d devised a crazy plan; they had to play their parts in it.

I knew which hotel Dennis would be staying in, in Cairns. I also knew the time of his arrival. I gathered my gang of villians around the phone and made a call!

Dennis answered the phone in his hotel room.  

In unison, we shouted..."Open your door, Dennis! We're right outside! We couldn't do without you! We miss you already! We've come up to join you!"

For a moment or two, there was silence from his end of the phone. 

To this day, I'm still certain his heart stopped beating for a couple of minutes...unsure if it was true or not!  It wasn’t even April Fool’s Day...but we got him for a couple of minutes.  Then we all broke out laughing, him included.

The week had drawn to a close. Saturday morning raised its ugly head all too soon. 

Tim, Suzy and Gaby, my new, crazy, kindred spirits were leaving on the 1pm seaplane back to mainland 'sanity'.

Forlornly they wandered down to the restaurant. I was in my office feeling similar emotions. It was crazy. We'd only known each other for a week, but we had shared such wonderful, fun, happy, slightly insane times.

I never invited guests to my little island home – my sanctuary (only twice did I do so...the other time was one night I had Derryn Hinch, Jacki Weaver and Jacki's son, Dylan to dinner during the week they stayed on Hinchinbrook)....my little dwelling on the island was my private haven...my escape.  I protected my privacy.

However, that morning, it seemed the right thing to do. I invited my 'partners-in-crime' to my home for coffee as there was time before the plane's arrival and their departure. We certainly were a maudlin mob. All the laughter we'd shared the past week had evaporated.

Tears were shed, not only by us girls. I noticed moisture glistening in Tim's eyes, too. Never will I be convinced he had something in his eye, as he claimed.

The farewells were sad, but mingled with the sadness were glorious, happy memories of a time well spent.

Suzy, as she stepped from the jetty into the punt (normally, I joined the guests in the punt, but this day, purposely, I didn't) that was to take them to the seaplane, turned her face up towards me, and said...."There is something waiting for you when you get back to your house...have a look out on the deck."

With those words, she smiled and waved. I waited at the end of the jetty until the seaplane lifted out of the water to commence its flight over the island, south to Townsville.

Feeling despondent, I strolled slowly back to my house, thoughts of the past week sifting through my mind.

I walked out on my deck as instructed by Suzy, and there, hanging on a fine thread from a beam on the deck overlooking the ocean was a crystal. It sparkled brilliantly in the sunshine, reflecting the sun's glittering rays upon the sapphire sea out front.

Final tears flowed, then a wistful mellow contentment settled throughout my being. 

That week, full of unexpected surprises, has remained firmly entrenched in my file of "fond memories". I'm sure the others feel the same way, even though we have since lost contact with each other, except for Suzy and me.  We still keep in contact to this day.

I did, however, re-connect with each one of them, during my trips to Sydney and Melbourne after their visit. I had dinner in Melbourne with Dennis the week before he left for England and his tenure at Oxford.

As a finale to this lengthy tale....I was aware that Dennis, when he left Cairns, was boarding another Greyhound Coach south to Townsville airport for his flight back to Melbourne.  

Always the clown and prankster, I organised with Bonnie, a friend in Cardwell, who was also the wife of the skipper of the “Reef Venture”; she handled all Greyhound coach bookings etc., from their Cardwell office, to purchase some lime-green poster-board.  

I asked her to print on the bright cardboard, in very large, black letters "Come Back, Dennis! The Island Misses You!"  

My further request was for her, when she saw the Greyhound coach coming along the highway, to race out onto the highway waving the banner.

Bonnie was happy to oblige.

You guessed it...as the coach, filled with passengers, came along the highway - as it approached the Cardwell town centre, which is bordered on one side by the ocean - Bonnie stepped out in front of the laden bus, waving the banner!

Her crazed actions caused quite a stir, together with lots of excitement and laughter.

Dennis did enjoy the special treatment...it was his moment in the sun!

A most memorable, cherished vignette...

PS....I still have the crystal Suzy gave me...it has pride of place on my bedside table.... 

All picture courtesy of and credit to Jan Blackshaw

32 comments:

  1. Such precious memories. No doubt shared by the other guests.

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    1. Yes...great memories of a wonderful week shared with wonderful folk, EC.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. Work in the touristic field sounds quite exciting. One meets lots of people, and sometimes gets attached to them, as in this memorable story of yours.
    The beauty of the island's sea, sky, mountains, and of the resort, added a lot to both guests and staff's life experience.

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    1. Hi DUTA....yes, it was an interesting time...a time of many wonderful experiences...working in that field.

      Hinchinbrook Island is quite magnificent.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. Dennis could be me, except for the smart, university student part. In the corner, on the sidelines, enjoying watching the action without being part of it. It takes me ages to get used to people enough to want to join in.

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    1. Hey, River....once Dennis came out of his shell, he had the time of his life. He was thankful we took the time and effort to make him partake in the fun. He and I actually were in contact about 8 or so years ago, and he told me at that time he still have fond memories of his Hinchinbrook Island holiday. He is back in Melbourne again after his Oxford University stint.

      We didn't keep up the contact. Perhaps I should send him an email and swe what he is up to these days.

      Thanks for coming by...I hope all is well. :)

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  4. Wonderful to read your memories such lovely ones too.
    A man once told us, a local at Cardwell that Crocodiles lay on the beach there, he said, many people think he was/is silly he had seen them - do you know anything of this?
    The photos are nice Lee.

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    1. Hi, Margaret. Of course - one of the largest crocs ever was captured in a creek a couple of kilometres north of Cardwell at the same time I was on the island. Crocs were and are up in the creeks that from off from Missionary Bay...such as Freshwater Creek, on the island. I loved going up those creeks, but there would be no way I'd get out of the boat...not for all the money in the world! Crocs would be in the Hinchinbrook Channel, too...and now doubt in the waters out the front of Cardwell.

      Thanks for coming by, Margaret...I'm glad you enjoy my story. Next time you go through that area...as I know you have done a few times in the past...you can think of it! :)

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    2. Thanks for your reply.
      Certainly if ever we go that far up north again will think of your story :)

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  5. Wow, this is one out of the box. I wish you were still there and we could stay at where you managed, with air conditioning of course. I expect Dennis and the rest remembers his visit as fondly as you recount it. I had so forgotten about Jackie's son Dylan.

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    1. Hi Andrew....it certainly was a halcyon period, my time on Hinchinbrook Island. I cherish the memories. It was one of the best times in my life. I met some wonderful people, from all walks of life; from our own country and from overseas.

      How great it would be to have a time capsule and be able to go back to that special time. Unfortunately, and sadly, the resort no longer exists.

      Magical moments were had...by me, my staff and our guests, alike.

      Dylan was only a young teen in those days...he's now married with a family of his own, as far as I'm aware. Still living in Melbourne, too. They had a ball at the resort, and we caught up a couple of times after their stay on the island...in Christchurch and in Melbourne. I'm still a big fan of both Derryn and Jacki...both top people.

      You, too, would have enjoyed yourself at the resort...I would've made sure you did! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. Gosh Lee - what an amazing life you have had. I will never ever get to such a wonderful and exciting place while on earth! sandie

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    1. G'Day, Sandie...I had some fun and interesting times; and I enjoyed those times in my life. However, life is very much quieter these days...and I love it this way.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. Such bittersweet memories....

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    1. They sure are, Delores. Thanks for popping in! :)

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  8. A happy place is a good place.

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    1. Most certainly, Adullamite. The way it should always be, but unfortunately, that is not always the case.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. Why the hell did tears fill my eyes as I reached the end of this tale? I swear I am turning into a big softie! Such merry japes at Hinchinbrook, overseen by a benevolent queen. Those were the days my friend!

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    1. It's okay, Yorkie! These days I get misty-eyed over just about everything! Dare I say it? Perhaps it's a sign of old age! There, I dared! lol

      Regardless of age...and ageing....I've always been a big softie...a big sook. There is no point in denying the fact! My tears give me away every time!

      They certainly were the days, my friend!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  10. Your entire life is a wonder.

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    1. Life is a wonder, Annie. I've enjoyed some wonderful times in some wonderful places..but equally, have had the bad as well as the good. That's life!

      Glad you're back up and...I was going to say "running again"....but, instead I'll say...it's great to see you doing well....take it easy, and don't overdo things. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. What a wondrous, fun-filled adventure.
    Those pictures look like a piece of paradise.

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    1. Hinchinbrook Island certainly is a piece of paradise, Sandra...and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have lived on the island for a time. It was a marvellous experience.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  12. A great story. Beautifully told. I read it and wanted more. That explains our youth. It sounds like you enjoyed yourself Lee and why shouldn’t you? I know I enjoyed reading about it.

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    1. G'day Terry...I was in my early 40s at time of this tale...41 and 42 years of age...a great age, I reckon. The 40s is a great decade, in my opinion.

      I'm glad you enjoyed my recount of that special week, shared with special people. It's wonderful to see you again....thanks for coming by...take good care. :)

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  13. I do love your stories. In fact I've just commented on someone else's blog that the lives of 'ordinary' people (ie not politicians and the like) are so very often really interesting. Especially if, like you, they are natural story tellers.

    By the way I assume that the original discoverer of Hinchinbrook Island was Irish. Macushla is term of endearment made famous by the Irish tenor John McCormack. I'm sure that I still have the old 78RPM record of it.

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    1. Here is a bit of history that answers part of your assumption, Graham....

      "In 1770, British Captain James Cook and his crew on HMS Endeavour of the Royal Navy sailed past at some distance east of Hinchinbrook Island.

      Hinchinbrook Island was named on the 19th May, 1819 by Lieutenant Phillip Parker King RN.

      It is named after Hinchingbrooke House in Huntingdon, England, as John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich was First Lord of the Admiralty, and the naming of Hinchinbrook Island, Brampton Island and Montague Island in the South Sandwich Islands are evidence of Cook's thanks to the 4th Earl. King was a naval officer, hydrographer and company manager who explored the northeastern coast of Australia on the HM Colonial Cutter Mermaid."

      Further information on the incredible Captain James Cook....https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Cook

      I have no idea who named "Macushla", but I would imagine it was named quite a while after Cook sailed by in 1770. I doubt that he and his crew would've seen that area of the island from where they were...out to see. Who named Missionary Bay is also a mystery to me. Both Missionary Bay and Macushla would've been out of sight of those aboard "The Endeavour", I believe...from the lay of the land/ocean.

      Thank you for your generous comment...it makes me happy to learn you enjoy my stories. And thanks for coming by...take good care. :)

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  14. Such precious memories, which we don't always appreciate until our later years ...
    The photo's here are just lovely to see.

    Can you believe it's mid January already, so far the month has been kind although a little cool in my part of the UK.
    Sending my good wishes.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Oh, I most certainly appreciated my time on Hinchinbrook Island, Jan. It was a unique, wonderful experience...and opportunity I grabbed with both hands and feet. I loved my time on the island.

      We've had horrendous humidity here, Jan, over the past few weeks...it and the heat have been very draining...but...late yesterday afternoon, as promised by the weather folk, strong, cooling breezes arrived driving away the debilitating humidity. I found it to be very draining. But today...and for the rest of this week from all predictions, the temps will be slightly lower...and no humidity!! Whooohoooo! :)

      Yes....I had notice that January is travelling at a rapid rate of knots!! Time is determined to stay on the downhill slope. I'm sure it would go slower if it went uphill!!

      Thanks for coming by...best wishes back at you. :)

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    2. I too find humidity so draining but fortunately here in the UK it seldom happens ...
      Thank goodness you are having cooler temperatures now,
      Take care

      My good wishes

      All the best Jan

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  15. That's so funny that he gave you his shirt. Do you still have it? Fun times, sounds like.

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    1. Hey Lynn....I kept the shirt for years after that particular time in my life. I should go in search to see if I still have it somewhere, but I think it may longer be in my possession. Last night I was thinking about it...and wondering the same thing...if I still had it somewhere.

      His giving me his shirt was a great sign...it proved we'd finally melted his reserve, and he allowed his good humour; his long-hidden sense of the ridiculous to shine through! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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